Rebuilding the Sky

The sky has fallen,
in a triphammer beat
of pieces on the roof,
moving in waves
crossing and recrossing
the blacktop road.
It teaches gravity
to the hands of the leaves,
bending their wrists
and arms toward the earth.
It grays my view,
turning down its contrast
and intensity.
Everything that was up
ten minutes ago is now down,
except my eyes.
I can’t help but scan
the sky, searching
for a hint of sunlight,
even if now all is darkness.
The rain’s abating, and
light begins rebuilding day,
propping up the damaged
sky once more,
upon a rainbow’s
scaffold.

Caught In My Own Web

I started out with a length of golden thread
with which my life’s tapestry one day would be read.
But, Oh what a tangled web I’d weave
when first I set out not to deceive,
but to become he who I’d be proud to call Me,
the man I and they always wanted me to be.

But I was the guy who’d fall for a girl
who’d never fall for me, and instead would curl
into the arms of another’s possession,
only strengthening my ardor into obsession,
which always clung stronger, in fact like a glove,
to my oft-scarred heart, than affection or love.

I was the man who with artful words
built billboard ads, where nested birds,
upon which footnotes called “news” were hung.
I crafted webs of truths (full, half and un-)
to snare those who’d read them with their heart,
missing the fine print and calling it “art.”

As a youth I somehow viewed, through history’s haze,
certain learned men, who back in their days
owned other men, as being “of their time”
and somehow not as culpable of the same crime
as those who’d as soon destroy the constitution
they built and defended, for their “peculiar institution.”

This web, strung with self-deceit and knotty lies,
supports and ensnares he I’ve come to despise.
So I bid you and they and the old me goodbye,
leaving behind the smug mug I wore while I became I.
I hope you’ll forgive me my many transgressions
and pray for any and all divine intercessions
on behalf of the boy who always meant well,
but ultimately found he wove his own private hell.

The Congratulations Door

There was a space next to him
at the bar and I filled it,
because we have our backs
to protect us from affronts.
Right away, I heard him say,
“They’ll tell you,
‘Congratulations,’ when
they close that door behind you.
But they’ll forget you just as
you forgot the others when
you said fare-thee-well.”
I tried ignoring his sour mash,
but he sounded too familiar.
“And then your dying begins,”
I heard him say, as I turned
and saw a man in the mirror
I didn’t recognize, yet shaved
just yesterday. “You know
what’s coming, don’t you?” said
a voice echoing the other.
In the way we feel when
we no longer clutch the wheel,
I closed the door behind me.
and stood before yet another,
Above it appeared words
deeply seared Either/Or.
“Congratulations,” I said,
as toward the next life I sped
and closed this door inside me.

Long Time Between

 

I’d felt nerves in her presence before, but I was just a kid then and she was the nonpareil, the Mt. Everest, the Hope Diamond of my nascent horn-doggedness, if not feelings of love.

I’m sure it was such fear, coupled with that raging hormonal confusion of mine that broke the lines of communication between us. Garbled communication—the staticky two-way expression of thought and opinion—and one or both parties can say to themselves “He’s/she’s not interested” or “What a douche/bitch,” and break off before the climax of their story.

Take “climax” as you will. I took it rather poorly, no matter which definition you prefer using. And on I fell to the denouement. No reviews. No sequel.

One day we went from best chums, the next to inseparable and huggy boy/girl combo to “I love you, but…” to incommunicado one-time acquaintance to “I don’t want to see you anymore” to silence of the grave. Not even crickets. A desert of emotion with no winds to temper the heat nor provide the merest of soundtracks. Only the sound of one broken heart strumming a shuffle beat of the blues.

So here I was, in this little restaurant not too far from the last place I saw Melanie, waiting to meet her again. I say I “saw her” because she deftly avoided making eye contact with me. Maybe she forgot what I looked like. Or maybe she was embarrassed about something else. I saw nothing to be embarrassed about. I was the one left waving at the air, my joyful expression at running into an old friend falling like a red-faced avalanche into the figurative pants around my ankles.

It hurt. It hurt worse than the day she told me goodbye. Worse than the years of not knowing what I’d done, if anything, to cause such a rift.

And then came the messages out of the blue from someone on Facebook calling themselves Lainie the Cat whose profile pic was a gray and black tabby. Cryptic things, gauzy innuendo and allusion to some forgotten connection that even I, the now-sensitive emotion-spilling writer, couldn’t fathom. I’d received messages and friend requests like this before from people——perhaps they were women, I’m pretty sure they weren’t cats——who would turn out to be trolls trying to fracture my testicles. I’d learned my lesson and it only cost me these two scars.

But making, or just as importantly, re-establishing such connections was what God, Zuckerburg or God in the guise of Zuckerberg, made Facebook for.

I know I shouldn’t have. My shrink, my songwriting partner and my bartender all warned me I shouldn’t, but I ended up responding to this hazy Nigerian diplomat of the heart.

No reply. I should have listened to that baritone Greek chorus.

Months go by and up pops another mysterious message that poked awake my curiosity, but jangled alarm bells from my balding head to my arthritic knees.

I was back in full confusion mode, a place I hadn’t inhabited since my last days as friends with Melanie. I had an inkling by now, but didn’t want to know, just to go. I’d even stopped listening to old favorite bands because they reminded me too much of her. I stopped writing anything that could even have been informed by our erstwhile relationship.

The next time, she flat out identified herself as Melanie. I would have liked to have written “my Melanie,” but that ship had sailed, gotten scuttled and sank to the stygian bottom of some uncharted ocean.

So this ghost ship of a woman begins with small talk to which I was even shyer than clumsy younger me. But I was ever the alloy with the melting point of chocolate Easter bunny for her. I couldn’t help myself, even after all these years and all my experiences. There are just some people who vibrate at the same frequency you do. You dial in, connect and whoever has the stronger signal calls what station you’ll listen to.

I listened to hers.

“Let’s meet up somewhere to talk about old times,” she wrote, for I refused to hear her voice on the phone.

“I don’t know, Melanie,” I replied. “Don’t you think we’ve gone our separate ways, taken new paths, broken new bones, bled out a few times, for a good reason?”

“I just think we should clear the air about what happened between us,” she said.

“We can’t do that here? I’m a fair expresser of ideas and emotion—and much younger and taller—in black and white,” I said.

“Okay. I just thought you’d like it if we saw each other, even if it was one last time, just to talk. I’d like to see you and talk to you.”

“Okay, you win. Again. You’re right. This late in the game, I guess I should swap out my wimpy tighty whities for a sturdy pair of boxers.”

“Or, better yet, go commando. LOL”

She always knew how to push my buttons.

And so I sit here, waiting for she who set me on my path toward easy access to emotions and a fragile heart. I owed her for that. Owe her for some hit songs I wrote, too. Like Harlan Howard said, “I’m always collecting emotions for future reference.” And I guess she owed me an explanation. Though I wasn’t holding my breath for one. Melanie was never one to shift blame, but wasn’t known for taking any either.

I was lost in thought, as is my usual state of being, when I felt the tap on my shoulder, to which I jerked and spun my head around to see who broke my self-absorbed concentration.

The woman looked familiar, like a faded old photo of your grandmother looks when you pull it out of your late Mom’s shoebox. But the puffy cheeks, sallow skin and hat covering her baldness rang more alarm bells than lit light bulbs above my head.

“Jay?” she said in a voice raspier than the one I heard telling me to beat it forty years before.

“Melanie?” I said, quickly rising from my seat, bumping the table and spilling what was left of my glass of bubbling courage. “Shit, some things never change do they?”

As I reached for some napkins to mop up what little beer left in the glass I’d spilled, she reached for me and gave me a gentle hug. It felt the same temperature of the spilled beer.

“Please, sit. I can’t tell you how great it is to…”

“See me? Please. The look on your face when you turned… Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,” she said.

“No, it wasn’t,” I said. “It was a very good idea.”

The waitress interrupted us to finish cleaning up my mess and asked if she could get me another and anything for the lady.

“Yeah, please, another IPA would be great. Melanie? I’m buying.”

“Oh, nothing for me, thank you. Haven’t had one in a while now. Doctor’s orders.”

The waitress slipped away and we each turned to look at the other, gauging the damages done by the years and whatever mileage we’d put on our bodies.

“Your hair, so silver. I wish I had it,” Melanie said with a laugh, touching her hat.

“Your laugh,” I said. “I wish I had it.”

“You always were a silver-tongued Yankee,” the Virgina-born woman across from me said. “So, tell me your story and I’ll tell you mine.”

“Oh, no. Your party and ladies first, always.”

“I’m not much of a lady anymore, Jay. Never really was. Please, indulge me, old friend,” she said.

“Okay. Still writing, though retired from the old gig after thirty years. Widowed. Three kids and four grandkids. I won’t bore you with the proud grandpa portfolio,” I said.

“Oh, please,” she said, genuinely interested.

“No, your turn. Indulge me this once.”

“Okay. Probably retired. Divorced. One daughter with one granddaughter. Long term relationship. I guess you can say widowed there. More than a few short-term relationships and affairs. Only one ever meant anything,” she said.

“Afraid I lost my head a couple of times sniffing trails other than the one to my door, too. Not too proud of it, but I’ll cop to it. Sorry, Melanie, go ahead.”

“Well, as you can…”

The waitress arrived with my ale and asked if we needed a few more minutes to order.

“Just a few. Thank you,” I said. “Now, as I can what, Mel?”

She sighed.

“As you can see, I’m not well. Liver. Alcoholic. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to see you.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” I said. But I did.

“I’m in AA now. I know, too late to the fair. But I wanted to make things right in my life before… Well, before. And one of the twelve steps is to…”

“Make direct amends to all persons we’ve harmed wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Step 9. Yeah, I know,” I said.

“You’re a friend of Bill?” she asked, eying my IPA.

“No, just a close friend of a friend of Bill.”

“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to see you. To explain why I chased you off all those years ago. I was a drunk and wanted to be with other drunks. And you scared me with your honest, naive, altarboy-next-door on a testosterone bender ways. So I cut you out of my life. But I never forgot how you tried to stay in touch, until I…”

“Yeah, but you’re here now and that’s what matters,” said and reached across the table to take her cool hand.

“Not for long, Jay. And that’s the other reason I wanted to see you. I wanted to see you and talk with you and feel you looking at me that way one more time before…”

“The salad arrives? They make a mean Caesar here, I understand. Look, I found out long ago all we really have is living right now. And right now we’re living three feet away from one another. At some point tonight and I hope for many nights ahead, we’ll be closer than that. No strings, just friend sitting with a friend. I’m too old to get all twitterpated over a woman again anyway.”

I waved the waitress down and said, “We’d like two Caesar salads to start off, please. And could you please take this back to the bar and get me a club soda with lime? I want a wet whistle and a sharp mind while I’m catching up with this lovely lady tonight.”

“At least,” Melanie said, and laughed that laugh that always reminded of the glass wind chimes on her front porch thirty-some years ago.

My much-too-long Day 7 story for Story-a-Day May. The prompt, from author Stuart Horwitz, was to think back to a time earlier in life, and a person from then with whom you’ve fallen out of touch. The writer was to turn himself and that person into characters and get them together and see what happens. How does it reflect on the protagonist’s journey? Well, this story kept on going. Good thing I tend to write poems of only around 100 words most days or you’d never visit anymore.

Working At It

Ed Snyder laid on his back in the dark bedroom with uncertainty and a touch of anger lying on the pillow next to him. The sun peeked around the bedroom curtains and knocked on his locked eyelids with the persistence of a teenager’s mom. Begrudgingly, his peepers responded to the maternal illumination and his ears to the music of the cheepers dancing from one leafy party to another. Even the dust motes floated in amiable ambling through morning’s cataract of light flaring in the cataracts of his sight. His phone decreed it was 7:00 AM and he couldn’t remember of which day. They all had become the same in his lonely retirement. He thought these days would be like heaven but discovered it could be just like the lingering death of his final years on the job, when he would dream of all the things he’d do in his life when he retired and hadn’t started even one yet. The talking hairdo on the television said today was Thursday and he realized he’d reached what would have been the end of a week having accomplished nothing. Again. He shrugged on a jacket and stepped outside into the world. He whistled into the trees, joining their orchestra, and let the sun carry him along like a sentient and content dust fleck on this first day of his new job…Working at Living.

I think we’ll use this piece for Day 4’s shot at my Story-a-Day challenge. It’s written in the form of a prose poem (I guess) and it hits the right buttons in meeting the basic prompt for today from author LJ Cohen, a version of Writer’s Clue:  Mr. ___________ in the _________ room with a __________.

Burning Through the Haze

The gull gray clouds
atop this Spring day match
the gray atop me.
Both the sky and I hide
our sunny selves behind
our silver shields.
Yes, I possess
the light and heat
to illuminate and warm you,
just not as certain as
we know the sun eventually
will break through.

In my Armageddon-black-hair
past, the times when light
escaped from within
were more likely
bolts of angry lightning
triggered by the merest shift
in my storm-swept mind.
But as you and age burned more
of my clouds away,
the more my light shines
like this Springtime day.

Traveling Light

Perhaps you remember that guy you once knew,
the one who’d just be there when you were angry or blue.
He had that black hair, eyes of dark brown
and, whenever he’d drop by, he’d flip over your frown.
He went away, traveling dark paths. So did you.
You went your way, he wandered without a clue.
You mightn’t recognize him now, the roads took their tolls,
his hair gone all silver, his eyes sunken holes,
and while the soles of his soul have worn shiny and thin,
there still comes a time when he can pull out a grin.
No, you may not remember him since your paths split apart,
but he sometimes smiles, even after all the hard miles,
at a picture of young you he thought to pack in his heart.

For Day 10 of NaPoWriMo, I combined prompts calling for a travel poem and a portrait poem. And what’s with this sudden rhyming thing? I shouldn’t go to sleep listening to Dylan, I guess.